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Rude Wonders

Ask Away: independent health store advice on feminine hygiene products

Looking for advice on natural health and wellbeing? Your local independent health stores can offer a wealth of knowledge and expertise. This issue we speak to Tina Daly who has an ITEC Swedish massage qualification and graduated in Dietary Counselling, health and lifestyle with the Institute of Health Sciences last year. She works part-time in The Healthy Way in Leixlip, Co Kildare.

Your skin is the largest organ in your body, and also the thinnest. Less than one-tenth of an inch separates your body from potential toxins. If you eat food which contains chemicals, enzymes in your saliva and stomach help break down and flush them from your body. However, chemicals coming in contact with your skin are absorbed straight into the bloodstream, going directly to your delicate organs where they have the potential to accumulate due to the lack of necessary enzymes to break them down.

Of course, there are numerous ways to minimise chemical exposure on your skin, but one way that may not immediately jump to mind is through your choice of feminine hygiene products. Owing to the fact that the vagina is capable of secreting and absorbing fluids at a higher rate than skin, what you put in contact with it should be of concern to you. With the average woman menstruating for over 40 years, typically for around three to five days per cycle, this equates to approximately 1200 hours per year wearing sanitary products. So it’s essential to know what exactly is in these products and the potential effects they can have on your health.

What's inside?

Unfortunately we’re told very little about the materials in feminine products. In fact, tampon and sanitary pad manufacturers aren’t required to disclose ingredients because feminine hygiene products are considered medical devices.

Research indicates that conventional sanitary pads can contain the equivalent of about four plastic bags! Plasticising chemicals such as BPA and BPS have been linked to the disruption of embryonic development, as well as heart issues. Phthalates, which give paper tampon applicators a smooth finish, are known to deregulate gene expression and DEHP may lead to damage to organs. Synthetics and plastic restrict air flow and trap heat and dampness, potentially promoting yeast and bacteria growth in the vaginal area.

Along with crude oil plastics, conventional sanitary pads can also contain other potentially hazardous ingredients such as odour neutralisers and fragrances, artificial colours, polyester, adhesives, polyethylene, polypropylene and propylene glycol, contaminants linked to a number of worrying side-effects. Chlorine bleach may be used to give pads and tampons their ultra-white clean look, which has the potential to create toxic dioxin and other by-products.

And if you’re not getting enough chemical exposure from pads, tampons and panty liners, you can always try cleansing your delicate area with a range of feminine wipes. Some well-known conventional brands of pads now come with individually wrapped perfumed wipes, just another set of chemicals for your body to process.

Natural safer alternatives

All is not lost though, there is a natural, safer alternative. Like other health stores, at The Healthy Way we carry a range of feminine hygiene products to suit all needs: pads, tampons, panty liners and wipes. These products are made from certified organic and natural, plant-derived materials that are chemical- and additive-free, containing only organic and natural ingredients sourced from sound ecologically-managed producers and certified free from animal testing. They are totally chlorine-free and do not contain any synthetic materials or any chemical additives such as surfactants, fragrances, dyes or lubricants. Choosing only fully certified organic cotton removes the risk of direct exposure to residues from chemical pesticides, fertilisers, defoliants and fungicides commonly used on conventionally grown cotton.

With 12 billion pads and seven billion tampons per year ending up in landfill, you will also be happy to know that these products are biodegradable, ensuring not only your safety but that of your environment too.

Who's who and what's what at The Healthy Way

“The Healthy Way has been operating in Leixlip for about 30 years,” says owner Helena O’Loughlin. “I took it over about eight years ago with my husband Kevin and friend Anne-Marie, both of whom are yoga teachers. We run the health store, the Shiatsu College and yoga studio all from the one building.

“We are on the main street in Leixlip but up an alleyway and our customers come and look for us. We are the only health store in town so we try to cover everything people might need.

“Our customers are mostly women who come in looking for vitamins and tonics for their children or something for themselves if they feel run down. We do get men and I have noticed our male customers are beginning to look after themselves more.

“In terms of natural make-up we stock all the major make-up brands. We are finding that more and more people are into it. Your skin absorbs everything, so it’s no good eating really well then putting harmful chemicals on your face.

“We carry a wide range of vitamins and minerals with different price points to give customers a choice. We also stock a full range of eco-cleaning products.

“In terms of foods we would have a good range of dried foods such as brown rice, organic porridge, nuts and seeds on shelves and soya products and coconut butter etc that we keep in the fridge. We’ve really noticed that gluten-free products are becoming more popular.

“We also have quite a lot of what I call jingly janglies – chakra bracelets, oil burners, wind chimes, little buddhas, angels, candles, books and meditation CDs.”

Visit: The Healthy Way, 2 Ralph Square, Leixlip, Co Kildare and try:
Drop-in yoga classes, various therapies including acupuncture, reiki, homeopathy, kinesiology, psychotherapy and shiatsu massage, dietary coaching/weight loss. For more information on these check out
SPEAK TO: Pat Neavyn, manageress – she knows everyone!

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